Archive for November, 2007

It’s still 85 degrees. Don’t lie to me.

Monday, November 26th, 2007

People keep telling me that it’s going to get cold here.  And I believe them.  I really really do.  I’ve even been cold once or twice, although only at night.

The problem is that my nose and scalp do not believe this whole “cold” scandal.  They’re still feeling all that sun.  My nose is a rather obnoxious shade of pink, making me resemble The Sneak.  ( ;D )

My head doesn’t believe it either.  I’m feeling just as tired and lazy as ever.  Walking five blocks makes me exhausted because it’s “too hot”.  I almost fell asleep in class about seven times today, although if I’m honest that probably has as much to do with our professor as it does with the environment.

We do have methods of counteracting the heat and exhaustion.  We either go to the pool, or to the ocean where we tread water.  We usually go with the former, particularly as my friend stepped on a sea urchin yesterday.  Not fun.

Still, I’m ready for the temperature to drop…down to 75.  Ish.  Have I mentioned that I miss snow??

In other news, I still knit.  Really-really.  I still don’t have pictures, but I do knit.  In face last week I started a shawl made from gift yarn.  Thanks to Anne!!  I’m not sure I managed to post about it before I left the states.  The yarn is a fuschia laceweight, and I am using the Azalea pattern from The Second Book of Modern Lace Knitting.

I’m pretty sure it’s a lot easier to transfer pictures than I think it is, but on the other hand I don’t have incentive to sit in cybercafés with creepy men all day.  Just imagine it for now.

I’m going to bed early tonight, and tomorrow I’m making a trip to the tailor for..uh…my new fabr-I mean-what’s that?? What are you talking about!! I would never buy “fabric”.  Get your head on straight…

Still here. Still alive. Still sunburnt.

Tuesday, November 20th, 2007

I spent the weekend with my program in Sokone (a small village near the Gambia), hence the lack of post-age.

We stayed in thatched-roof houses, although it was a “hotel” and therefore a little fancier than the compounds usually are.  Still, we visited a compound and had an excellent time.  The walls are made from a cement-like substance made from mud and crushed shells, which makes for a much cooler housing material than the cement ovens they like to bake us in here in Dakar.

We simply asked if they minded if we came in to look around, and the moment we entered the gate we were swarmed by urchins.  Mine was named Penda* and she somehow managed to cling to my hand even in the process of trying to retie her skirt (which fell off halfway through the visit and never quite got reattached).

We visited a few NGOs run by women (grains, jams/batiks), a honey business, and an eco-tourism site.  It was all pretty cool.  We took a pieroge (once again, small wooden boat and not Polish food item) to and from through the mangroves.  We didn’t see any manatees, but apparently there are some that live in that particular little ocean branch.

Finally, we spend a few hours talking to a group of 15-year-old girls.  It was interesting because they all know what they want to be, and half of us are still struggling.  Here?  You have to know.  If you don’t you’ll never break the cycle.

It was an excellent weekend in short, but it’s nice to be home in Dakar.  I missed my family.

* One of my favorite Sénégalese womens names, tied with Ramatoulaye and Aminata.


Saturday, November 10th, 2007

Before you go somewhere new to live, they spend a lot of time talking to you about the different stages of adjustment you’re going to go through in the course of your stay. Technically I should be entering the “crisis” phase, where you start to hate everything because it’s different, but no longer new. If you research “the W-curve”, something is sure to come up.

Personally, I prefer to ignore them completely. I’m obviously going to break out with whatever symptoms they tell me to expect so long as i know they exist. It’s just how things work. By the same logic, if I ignore what they tell me I’ll feel everything naturally and analyse it myself. It could match up with what they say or it could be different.

Similarly but from the other standpoint, knowing what they told me to expect makes me all the more resolute *not* to follow that path. If they tell me I should be upset, I’m going to be happy. If they tell me I should be bored, I’m going to go out in the city and find something crazy.

Erm…I guess some of us don’t really like being told what to do…

I think going to St. Louis really helped us to avoid getting bogged down in routine and book-learnt symptoms. Coming home to Dakar actually felt like coming *home*. Everything was familiar and fairly comfortable. Now that a few weeks have passed I definitely feel like I am building a routine, but I don’t feel oppressed by it. Sometimes I get a little bored but there are enough books lying around to keep me occupied. There are enough places to go, and enough people to go places with.

University courses should start at the end of November, although with the frequency of student strikes no one really knows for sure.

The other thing that keeps me from wearing down is that I always take a long time to really *look* at my surroundings. I usually start small and build up the image as I go, which means I always have something new to look at. Sometimes I miss home, but it’s hard to miss it too much when I know that my time here is limited.

“I wonder what it feels like to be a tired fish.”

Friday, November 9th, 2007

That was the thought that was running through my mind last night while I should have been concentrating on something constructive.

I had never eaten a fish (in my memory) before last summer.  Certainly not a fish with the face still attached…

Fish with faces are nothing.  I am very well acquainted with fish bones, although I’m not clever enough yet to spit them out without the aid of my hands.  I’m afraid to try it lest I drop a wad of chewed food on the floor.  Not that it would matter.  That’s what we do with whatever cannot be eaten (i.e. fish bones, chunks of gristle or bones from meat, etc.).  My family might laught at me though. ;D

Really though, the construction of a fish is fascinating.  I never had the chance to observe it in detail.  Everything is made up in segments.

The other half, the “tired” half, comes from the fact that we’ve started swimming.  By “we” I mean Leah and I.  I was so tired for the first two months here, but I think it was mostly a combination of the heat and the lack of exercise.  Swimming is exhaustive, but it really helps in a climate where you feel more like a snail than anything else.  I can already tell that my endurance is stronger.

Keep it in mind if you’re intending to go somewhere hot and sunny!!

(And naturally, fish must be sleepy as well.)


Dear Amanda,

Sunday, November 4th, 2007

It’s no good. We just have to do it. It’s so easy to talk about how we need to think about it, to pretend that we’re actually going to get there. It has to be just the right pattern, just the right needle size, just the right time to start… So many decisions to make, it’s just so *difficult* to start a new knitting project!! I mean, we don’t do this frequently at all so I totally understand our difficulties…

Well, last night when I was peacefully sleeping under my hole-y mosquito net, I heard an ominous *ClickCREAK…squuueeeaaaakkkk…clacketyclack*. It was just like my closet door opening, but that didn’t make sense until I realized that I’d left the key in the door. I figured the breeze just pushed it open, but then something soft bouncy went *FLUMP!!* against my net. I sat up, and there it was.

The Africa yarn. It was looking at me with eyes aflame.

“Yoouuu haave oooonly foourr mooonthhss leeeft” it said. “Amaanndaa haas…uhm…well I don’t know how much time, but waaayy leesss than thaaaattt”.

I, uhm..well, I think it’s angry. It menaced me for another few minutes but the approaching dawn started to frighten it and it jumped back into the closet with a bang.

I shook it off and went back to sleep, but…

I think it’s trying to tell us something.

Much love and Indian food/theatre jealousy,

Gazelle?? Why not.

Saturday, November 3rd, 2007

With a lack of anything better to say (as well as the newfound discovery that I can post photos directly from flickr) I thought I’d make use of my space to show you this adorable baby gazelle. I didn’t get a picture when it was facing us, but it’s stil pretty great from the back. I couldn’t believe the size of the ears!!

It’s a Saturday. I rarely know what to do with saturdays, but I think we’re going to go to the pool. Some people are going to the beach, but I don’t really have enough interest ing sunbathing to go there more than once a month or so. To prove how interesting our lives are sometimes, we might even stretch it so far as to go to Casino (the grocery store) when we’re done!! ;D

Maybe I can sneak in a trip to the patisserie while we’re at it…


Thursday, November 1st, 2007

I realized my neglect in explaining one of the integral parts of my stay in Sénégal, so here you go.  Thank you (or “jërëjëf” to use the Wolof term) Karen for pointing it out to me in an e-mail!!  I’m basically going to cut and paste my response, or maybe I’ll get fancy and “copier/coller” it…

Wolof is the dominant tribe of people in Sénégal.  The majority of people here are of Wolof descent, but there a bunch of other tribes as well.  (The Seerer, the Peuls, the Toucouleurs, etc…)  People here speak Wolof 90% of the time.  Many of the non-educated people don’t speak any French, which can be obnoxious if it’s your taxi driver. There are a few people who don’t speak Wolof, but that is rare.

Wolof sounds more like Spanish than French, but the primary sounds are different.  Also it is a spoken language, and the translation to a written form is quite recent. There is a generation of children now who are learning Wolof in the schools as well as French.  Perhaps they will switch over to Wolof as the official language of Sénégal??  It might as well be as things are now.

Wolof has been fairly easy for me to pick up, although there is one set of verbs that I think particularly describes one of the main forseeable problems.

Toog – To sit

Togg – To cook

Tox – To smoke

Pronounce those for me…

They are actually different.  I can here and pronounce the difference quite easily, but everyone speaks with a different accent.  When you are actually in conversation with someone it is not always as easy to determine what they are trying to say as when you are sitting down and learning it.

Not to-in any way-suggest that I am advanced enough to hold conversations in Wolof.  I’m pretty good at the greetings, and if I know a vocab word I can throw it out pretty readily.  I can even piece together some bad sentences if I really try, but if a Sénégalese person starts spouting out Wolof I get lost pretty quickly.  With that said, I understood my mother’s breakfast directions this morning!! (Bring the stool.  Sit.  Take the bread.  It’s too hot.  Etc…)

Apart from that, happy November everyone!!  November is one of my favorite months-particularly in Ann Arbor-and I miss it a lot.  This is my third November outside of Ann Arbor, and I must say that it’s also the record high for temperature overall.  I wonder why that could be.  ;D

I’m sure that there is still apple cider out there, and donuts, and changing leaves, and farmland backroads to be driven through, meaning that it’s all of your responsibility to take advantage of that for me.  In my turn, I promise to sunburn.